[PHOTO - Filipino Catholics streamed into churches nationwide for the annual traditional predawn Masses such as this in Kamuning, Quezon City where churchgoers who could not fit into the church had the option to hear Mass inside the parish gym where video of the Mass is livestreamed on a video wall.]

MANILA, DECEMBER 17, 2012 (GMANEWS) Simbang Gabi off to festive start, anti-RH bill statement read in some churches December 16, 2012 5:01am 192 11 0 349 The traditional "Simbang Gabi" got off to a festive start Sunday as Filipinos went to churches to attend the first of nine predawn Masses leading to Christmas Day.

But in some churches, the homily turned serious as priests read a pastoral letter against the Reproductive Health bill, radio dzBB's Paulo Santos reported.

In Manila, a festive atmosphere surrounded the Quiapo Church as vendors at nearby Plaza Miranda hawked food items such as bibingka (rice cake), puto bumbong, and suman.

At the Binondo district, fireworks were lighted near the Binondo Church in Chinatown while the Mass was going on.

In Quezon City, the report said predawn Masses started as early as midnight at the St. Peter's Church along Commonwealth Avenue.

National Epidemiology Center head Enrique Tayag noted many atend the Simbang Gabi because of the belief their wish would be granted if they attend all nine Masses.

"So many people (are) longing for their wishes fulfilled and awaiting Christ's birth," he said.

Filipino Catholics streamed into churches nationwide for the annual traditional predawn Masses such as this in Kamuning, Quezon City where churchgoers who could not fit into the church had the option to hear Mass inside the parish gym where video of the Mass is livestreamed on a video wall. Police kept tight watch over the churches, after reminding churchgoers not to bring jewelry or large sums of money.

The police had also said they would keep watch over homes to make sure burglars do not victimize families attending the predawn Masses. — ELR, GMA News

Rebuilding lives hard for ‘Pablo’ victims By Nico Alconaba Inquirer Mindanao 1:10 am | Monday, December 17th, 2012

[PHOTO- Appeal for more volunteers for ‘Pablo’ victims: VOLUNTEERS and local government workers work 24 hours repacking relief goods at the provincial gymnasium in Mati City, Davao Oriental. NICO ALCONABA/INQUIRER MINDANAO]

MATI CITY, Davao Oriental—Wilma Sinangute and her four children had to travel at least 110 kilometers to reach this city from their wrecked home in Barangay (village) Kinablangan in Baganga town, where Typhoon “Pablo” made landfall on Dec. 4.

“There is nothing left there,” said the51-year-old widow at Matiao National High School, which has been turned into an evacuation center for 270 uprooted people.

Sinangute and her children passed by Caraga, Manay and Tarragona—towns destroyed by the typhoon in its deadly sweep across Mindanao.


Victims of disasters and armed conflicts normally moved to the next safer town but at the school, many came from distant communities.

Evangeline Dayosa, along with her four children, also had to travel 110 km from her village in Lambajon, also in Baganga.

“We can’t rebuild our home there,” she told the Inquirer, indicating there could be no return to Lambajon.

The government relief effort continues to receive donations.

US military

US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. cited the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States for enabling US soldiers to assist in the search and rescue operation.

“This year, we shared a challenging typhoon season. We look back to the city of Manila for what you did for our embassy staff as the water rose and the support you offered,” Thomas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer during the annual Christmas lantern lighting at the US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard.

He said the United States, at the request of the Philippines, was able to extend help in Mindanao “because of our 61-year-old defense treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows us to bring our military to assist the Philippines.”

“We’ve already given P400 million and relief goods and assistance. We’re conducting retrieval operation for the missing fishermen; our helicopters and planes are looking for them,” he said.

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines announced on the weekend it was donating $100,000 or P4.1 million to the relief effort.

Recently, the Taiwan Root Medical Peace Corps visited the Philippines for the tenth time for a nine-day medical mission in storm-affected regions, including Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City.

The 22 medical volunteers conducted free medical treatment, facilitated eye and dental checkups, and distributed free medicines. They also donated 60 tons of rice to the city government of Cavite.

Since 2008, Taiwan has donated to Philippine relief efforts more than $800,000 in cash and in kind, turned over 7,300 tons of rice to city governments and sent medical missions.

PNP aid

Also on Sunday, the Philippine National Police turned over P7.4 million in cash and relief goods to the typhoon victims.

Outgoing PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome handed the donation to displaced residents, among them families of 109 police personnel in Compostela Valley.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro announced on the weekend that classes in typhoon-devastated areas would resume next month.

“The earlier we resume classes, the better it is to rebuild their lives,” he explained.

The Department of Education reported that 95 percent of public schools in Compostela Valley were destroyed.

It said at least 877 classrooms were “washed out,” half of which were in Baganga, Davao Oriental, while 355 other classrooms were damaged.

“We’ve sent ‘tent classrooms’ because before the Christmas break, we want to begin classes, even if there’s no physical school,” Luistro said. With reports from Frinston Lim and Charlie C. Señase, Inquirer Mindanao; and Marlon Ramos, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Erika Sauler, Jaymee T. Gamil and Nancy Carvajal in Manila


[PHOTO -Strong winds brought by Typhoon Pablo blew away the entire roof of a three-classroom building of Mipangi Elementary School in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley province on Tuesday (4 December 2012). Mindanews Photo]

DAVAO CITY—The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has issued a call for more volunteers, including doctors and nurses, to serve victims of Typhoon “Pablo” in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Efforts to assist the evacuees are being complicated by the fact that a growing number of social workers are getting sick because of fatigue and prolonged exposure, according to Rebecca Santamaria, head of DSWD’s protective services unit in Southern Mindanao.

“We need doctors, nurses, stress debriefers, even those who are not social workers,” Santamaria said.

The situation is getting worse by the day because of the condition of the affected areas, with some 741,256 people crammed into evacuation centers, she added.

Santamaria said local hospitals and makeshift medical centers in the affected areas are now brimming with patients as more people are getting sick because of lack of food, unsanitary surrounding, strain and lack of sleep.

In Cateel, Davao Oriental, children were the first to fall victims to diarrhea and other illnesses.

In a hospital there, a worried Manily Jumay tends to her son, Nico, who is barely over a year old. Nico is suffering from high fever and diarrhea.

“We need to treat him immediately before his condition worsens,” Dr. Eric Raborar, who heads a volunteer medical team from Albay province, said.

Ali King Cablinda, a staff nurse at the now weather-beaten medical facility in Cateel, said they were treating 15 cases of diarrhea.

“Of the 20 patients, 15, mostly children, have diarrhea,” Cablinda said.

He said based on what doctors had opined, the victims might have consumed murky water because of lack of supply.

In Baganga town, water was also scarce. A mother carrying a child was seen wandering about and begging for water.

In New Bataan, Compostela Valley, diarrhea cases have also been noted but Marlon Esperanza, town information officer, said there is no outbreak as of yet.

Raul Basañez, Compostela Valley health chief, said they were taking measures to contain a possible outbreak of diarrhea and other diseases as thousands displaced by the typhoon crowd sweltering evacuation centers.

In New Bataan for example, Basañez said they were applying disinfectants near evacuation centers and were constantly reminding the evacuees to boil their drinking water.

Santamaria said because the victims in the two provinces have nothing to go home to, with their houses torn into pieces during Pablo’s wrath, they would certainly be spending Christmas and New Year in bunk houses and tents that are being constructed by the national government.

At least 81 bunk houses were being constructed in the New Bataan in Compostela Valley and the towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston in Davao Oriental.

With a size equivalent of a basketball court, each bunk house, fashioned from plywood and concrete, will have 10 rooms and can accommodate about 300 families.

Santamaria said the first units of the bunk houses would be completed by Dec. 16.

DSWD has allotted about P42.7 million to fund the construction of the temporary shelter. The fund was drawn from the P115-million standby fund of DSWD, she said.

Santamaria said people in badly ravaged towns were also becoming desperate for other items such as milk for infants.

In Cateel, she said people were “trading chicken for milk.”

“I even heard a mother saying, ‘I badly need milk today (for my baby), or, if I can’t find one, I might have to kill people,’ that’s how desperate the situation is,” she said.

Santamaria said aid agencies continued to deliver food and other nonfood essentials to the victims.

But she admitted that other people might not have received assistance yet, more than a week after Pablo hit the two provinces, as some areas remained difficult to reach, not only because the infrastructure were badly damaged but also because they might not have existed there in the first place.

On Wednesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) rationed food and nonfood items in Compostela Valley.

Stephen Anderson, WFP Philippine director, said his organization would provide assistance to the victims during the next six months to help them cope and recover.

At least 40,000 families in “critically affected areas” in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental would benefit from the program, he said during a visit to New Bataan.

Anderson was accompanied by actress KC Concepcion, WFP’s ambassador against hunger.

The evacuees, numbering about 2,000, were initially animated by Concepcion’s arrival at a gymnasium in Barangay Poblacion but their smile soon disappeared.

Concepcion told the crowd she was saddened upon seeing the massive devastation brought by the storm, and that she would do her best to help them cope with their loss.

“I know what happened to you is sad. It is difficult to see all these),” the 27-year-old singer-actress, said.

Anderson admitted that delivering food aid to all victims was a “race against time.”

Aside from providing them their basic needs, Anderson said the WFP would also support disaster-preparedness efforts to help the victims prepare and respond properly to similar future emergencies.

“We are thankful to all local and international relief agencies as our partner in helping New Bataan get back on its feet,” said Mayor Lorenzo Balbin. Germelina Lacorte, Dennis Santos, Frinston Lim and Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao

[PHOTO -Teacher Victoria Ubial hang Christmas lantern on Wednesday amid the devastation brought by Typhoon Pablo in Mipangi Elementary School in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley. Strong winds blew away the entire roof the three classrooms on Tuesday morning. Mindanews Photo by Ruby Thursday]

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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